I know that rules are made to be broken and that most of us break a few now and again. But lately, in the race to be different, too many people are trying to write fiction in the present tense. Stop it already!
I am not sure how the rule to write in the past tense ever got started. Maybe it was part of the oral tradition long ago before fiction ever was written down. “I’m going to tell you a story about a man I knew many moons ago.”
Frankly, I think it just makes sense. New writers often struggle with tenses anyway. They tend to wander back and forth between present and past. So learning to stick to one tense is a mark of someone who has already been writing a bit.
Present tense jars me. I don’t know why. I guess because if it is happening now, I expect somehow to be able to see it.
Present tense with a third person point of view really throws me. How can I see from someone else’s eyes? I can hear the story when they are done living it, but I can’t experience it with them. Can I?
So for me, present tense in a novel interferes with my willing suspension of disbelief. I can’t focus enough to really get the satisfaction I get from a novel written in past tense.
Is that alienation of at least part of your projected readers worth it, just to do something a little differently?
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